A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority
“We work very hard at it.”
Congratulations to the Grand River Dam Authority’s Dr. Darrell Townsend and Brent Davis!
Earlier this month, the Grand Lake Association announced that this GRDA Ecosystems Management Department duo would share honors as the 2013 “Grand Lakers Of The Year.” GLA made the presentation at its annual banquet, pointing to the efforts by Townsend and Davis to help put Grand Lake in the national fishing spotlight as a key reason for the award.
Townsend is GRDA’s Assistant General Manager of Ecosystems and Lake Management and has led the GRDA Ecosystems effort since the department was established in 2004. Davis is GRDA’s fisheries coordinator/tournament director and serves as the key contact for most every fishing tournament that takes place on Grand and Hudson lakes. Together with the rest of the GRDA Ecosystems team, the duo has helped to raise the fishing reputation of the lakes in recent years through efforts geared towards fisheries enhancement and public involvement.
That enhancement and involvement goes hand in hand at events like the annual GRDA “Rush For Brush” workshops. While volunteers supply the labor, GRDA supplies the material for the construction of artificial “spider block” fish habitats that are eventually placed in Grand and Hudson waters.
Each year since the program began, more and more volunteers join the effort to build the structures which provide cover for small fish (thus helping protect tomorrow’s fishery) while also providing a pretty good spot to cast a line.
In another effort to help protect the fish population, Townsend and Davis were instrumental several years ago in establishing new rules for weigh-ins at fishing tournaments. Prior to those rules, Davis said it was not unusual for 50 percent or more of caught fish to die as a result of the weigh-in process.
Today, thanks to nearly a decade of GRDA Ecosystems’ efforts, the percent of fish lost in tournaments is often in the single digits. Even at the Bassmaster Classic, which was the most prestigious tournament to visit Grand, those rules were in place and worked well, even though weigh-ins were held in Tulsa.
“We handled the fish and we brought them back and returned them all safely to Grand Lake, which is a big thing for GRDA,” Davis stressed. “We work very hard at it.”
Of course, that hard work does not just benefit the bass, it also benefits business. Earlier this year, Bassmaster magazine listed Grand Lake as the 15th best bass fishery in the country, while USA Today also listed the lake among its top ten places for bass fishing. Meanwhile, both Grand (first) and Hudson (third) were listed among the very best tournament lakes in the state in the most recent Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report.
That kind of reputation brings more tournaments, more anglers and thus, more dollars to the shores of Grand and Hudson lakes. In fact, in 2013, the lakes combined to host over 10,000 boats, participating in 205 different tournaments.
When you consider that many of those fishermen (and even spectators) are spending money in the lakes region for gas, food, lodging and other items, then the benefit of a healthy fishery, with a solid reputation for fishing success, goes beyond the boat to the bottom line.
According to Townsend, GRDA plans to add to this momentum in 2014 by re-launching its TEAM Eco (Tournament Education on Angling Mortality) program. Through the effort of volunteers and several workshops to be held at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley GRDA hopes to educate fisherman about the causes of, and ways to prevent, both initial fish mortality and delayed mortality following tournaments. More details will be released in the future.
Additionally, GRDA plans to more closely monitor bass movements following tournaments and track population dynamics through a mark-recapture program to be implemented in conjunction with a new release trailer to be used at tournaments in 2014.
Ultimately, all of this goes back to an important part of GRDA’s mission “to assist in area economic development and help our customers adapt to changes in their business environments, as well as making certain that on and around our lakes we will support recreational development, environmental awareness, and good safety practices to ensure the continued improvement of the quality of life for all of those who utilize our resources.”
It is a mission that Townsend, Davis and the rest of the GRDA Ecosystems Team works to fulfill every day.